It’s kind of a given that the President of the United States should be pretty smart. Despite what hack comedians will tell you about George W. Bush, an idiot can’t just walk into the White House and run the country. But even by the standards of the office, some of America’s most impressive minds could do some pretty ridiculous things.
10. Lyndon B. Johnson Could Find Out Everything about a Person
At an impressive 6 ft 3 1?2 in (192 cm), Lyndon B. Johnson is the second tallest President in history. The tallest U.S. President was Abraham Lincoln at 6 ft 3 3?4 in (192.4 cm). Johnson was well aware of his height, and often used it to his advantage to intimidate or coerce both political opponents and allies. He used what became colloquially known as “the treatment,” where he would use his massive frame and dominating presence to get all up in someone’s grill before making them spill their guts.
What made it so effective was Johnson’s incredible ability to find out exactly what made people tick. Johnson was able to find out basically everything about a person, from how they felt about political issues to their shoe size, and could recall all of it without error and with just the right tone of voice to persuade or bully someone to do whatever he wanted. This allowed Johnson to bring even staunch opponents who totally disagreed with him around to his way of thinking in a matter of minutes by overwhelming them with his intricate knowledge of their politics, ideas and flaws.
9. JFK Knew How to Shake Hands Perfectly
Considering that John F. Kennedy allegedly slept with more beautiful women than a copy of Cosmo, it’s not going to come as a surprise that he was known as a fairly charismatic dude. However, President Kennedy wasn’t just charming and handsome — he was a borderline hypnotist when it came to influencing people.
For example, President Kennedy once commissioned an entire study on the art of shaking hands, all so that he could set the tone of a relationship from the instant he met someone. JFK’s handshake was so comforting and warming that it wasn’t uncommon for him to return after a long day of meeting people with a scratched up hand from the sheer amount of people clambering to grasp at his magical palm.
When it came to talking to people, JFK was known to be able to sway an entire crowd with nothing more than his smile, as you can see in this video of him killing it in a question and answer session. What makes this more impressive is that JFK could reportedly turn on the charm at will, being able to influence people to his way of thinking even if they didn’t fully agree with it. We guess Magneto was right — JFK really did have a mutant superpower.
8. Teddy Roosevelt Could Read an Entire Book Before Breakfast
There’s little we could say about how awesome Roosevelt was that wouldn’t just be us repeating ourselves, but few people realize that Roosevelt was both an unflinching badass and a huge nerd. It’s estimated that Roosevelt read in excess of 10,000 books, many of which were in foreign languages because even when it came to reading Roosevelt liked to challenge himself.
Roosevelt’s inhuman ability to eye-punch knowledge came about as a result of him teaching himself to speed-read, which allowed him to quickly gloss over a book while still retaining about 90% of the information it contained. This meant that Roosevelt could read a book or magazine in a matter of minutes or hours and hold detailed, lengthy conversations about its contents like he’d studied it for years. Roosevelt’s thirst for knowledge was so great that he reportedly read a book before he ate breakfast every single day. Kind of makes you want to finish reading that novel you’ve had sitting around for a month and a half, huh?
7. Calvin Coolidge Only Lost One Election
While Calvin Coolidge may not be the most well-known President, he’s noted as being one of the most electorally successful — in his entire political career he only lost once at the ballet box.
When Coolidge applied to be a member of Northampton, Massachusetts City Council in 1898, he won. A year later he was re-nominated but applied to be a City Solicitor instead, and won. This trend continued for the next few decades as Coolidge went from being a member of city council to a State Legislator, to a Mayor, to a Governor, to a Vice President and finally to being the President himself, winning almost every time by a landslide. In fact, when he became President Coolidge won the vote in every State with the sole exception of the home state of the guy running against him. When the time came for Coolidge to run again he politely declined, saying that 10 years in Washington was too much, even though many agree he would have won again. He retired with an almost flawless political record. The only loss Coolidge ever suffered was when he campaigned to be a member of a local School Board, because he didn’t have kids that went to that school.
6. James Garfield Could Write in Two Languages at the Same Time
James Garfield is mostly remember alongside William McKinley as being one of the Presidents who was shot but didn’t have a cool hat or nice eyes. Which is a shame, because James Garfield is possibly the smartest man to ever hold office. Garfield had an exceptionally keen mind, teaching himself to be proficient in a multitude of disciplines and subjects. After just a year at college he was teaching classes on literature and ancient language, when previously he’d worked there as the janitor.
Garfield was also known to be ambidextrous, which he would show off to friends and colleagues by asking them to pose him a question before writing down the answer in Latin with one hand and Greek with the other, all while maintaining unflinching eye contact.
5. John Adams Had a Silver Tongue
Even if your knowledge of American history is limited to whatever you managed to glean from Assassin’s Creed 3 in-between stabbing wolves, you can probably tell what happened at the Boston Massacre from the name alone. If you’re still a little fuzzy, the short version is that in 1770 eight British soldiers opened fire on a crowd of people in the middle of Boston, killing five people.
When the soldiers walked into the courtroom, almost everyone expected the sentence to be death. But with just a few words the future President was able to convince the entire jury that the men were innocent because they acted in self-defense, resulting in six of them walking free while the other two were given the equivalent of a slap on the wrist.
Just let that stew for a moment. John Adams managed to convince a jury to acquit a bunch of British soldiers charged with shooting people in the street at a time when revolutionary fervor was growing. We can’t even convince employees at Subway to give us extra ham.
4. Lincoln Trumped a 13,000 Word Speech In Two Minutes
The Gettysburg Address is one of those speeches that will never be forgotten, mostly because you could write it on the back of a napkin. Clocking in at just 272 words and delivered in a little over two minutes, Lincoln’s speech was barely longer than the previous entry on this list and yet it’s consistently ranked as one of the greatest speeches ever given.
A fact that’s often overlooked is that Lincoln’s speech was never supposed to be the Gettysburg Address. That honor originally belonged to the two hour, 13,000 word long speech given by Edward Everett. His speech, which is regarded as a masterpiece of oration given by a man famed for his abilities as a speaker, was trumped by little more than an off the cuff utterance from Lincoln. Immediately after Lincoln gave his speech, Everett, who’d spent weeks crafting his magnum opus, knew that he’d been bested and the next day he penned a letter to Lincoln saying that he was happy to come close with two hours to what Lincoln had accomplished in two minutes.
3. Andrew Jackson Managed to Pay Off All of America’s Debts
Did you know that there’s only ever been one time in America’s history that the country’s been entirely debt free? It was all thanks to Andrew Jackson and how much he hated owing people money. When Jackson took office in 1829, he vowed that he’d eliminate America’s 58 million dollars of debt, the equivalent of paying off about 800 million today. Six years later, America was debt free — Jackson had somehow managed to pay off every cent through careful planning, frugal spending and telling creditors where to stick it.
Jackson’s feat has never since been equaled. Even worse is that America was only debt free for a year before it once again needed to borrow money. Still, Jackson accomplished something many thought to be impossible just because he really didn’t like the idea of running a country that owed someone money.
2. Thomas Jefferson Could Read Five Books at Once
When it comes to smart Presidents it’s hard to top Thomas Jefferson. An expert in almost every subject he put his mind to, Jefferson could converse with anyone about anything effortlessly. President Kennedy once famously addressed a room filled with Nobel Prize winners by saying:
“I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”
Nothing sums up Jefferson’s intelligence better than this, an invention personally created by Jefferson so that he could read five books simultaneously. Jefferson was a prolific writer who liked to consult multiple books while penning essays and letters, so to make this easier Jefferson created a revolving book stand that would allow him to read and consult multiple texts. We really think these should still be made so that we can see what happens if we stick 5 iPads to it.
1. George W. Bush Didn’t Need To Have Meetings Because He Already Knew It All
Just to be clear, yes, we’re talking about the same President Bush who once said “Rarely is the question asked: is our children learning?” the same President Bush who coined the term “Misunderestimate” and the same President Bush who once tried to exit a press conference through a locked door. Although pop culture has painted Bush as a buffoon, stupid people don’t get to be President of the United States. Part of the reason Bush is often seen as inept is his strong southern accent, which studies have shown makes someone appear less intelligent regardless of their educational background. In regards to Bush, while he wasn’t an amazing student he was by no means a poor one.
According to aides and people who’ve interviewed him George W. Bush is a remarkably smart man, with one interviewer describing him as “60 IQ points smarter in private than he was in public.” During his time as President, many commented on his ability to recall and absorb information with an extraordinary level of speed and comprehension. It’s said that Bush would often hurry people through presentations about complex policies because he’d already read through their notes and didn’t want his time wasted.
On one occasion, Bush met with several of his advisers who were all advising him about a “thorny policy.” After three long meetings in which no agreement could be reached, an aide reached out to Bush to arrange a fourth meeting. In response, Bush meticulously listed each adviser’s key talking points along with a full and frank rebuttal before asking if a fourth meeting was really necessary. It wasn’t.
Of course this doesn’t mean Bush was a good President or that he made smart choices during his time in office, as people smarter than us have discussed. It just means that he was smarter than most people gave him credit for, which considering how stupid most people think he is makes him pretty much a genius.